Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Holy Spirit’s Presence in the Church


Dear Parish Faithful & Friends in Christ,


Ісon of the Deѕсent of the Holy Ѕріrіt on the Aрoѕtleѕ — One of the oldest known images of Pentecost, from the Syriac Rabbula Gospel – 6th c., Church of Antioch. (Photo: pravoslavieto.com)

'Yesterday'—June 4, 2017—we celebrated the Great Feast of Pentecost.  And it seems fitting for me to share a fine passage from Father John Breck, who wrote a summary paragraph of the role and work of the Holy Spirit in the divine economy, and in the life of Christian believers.  This passage gives us a sense of the extraordinarily rich and varied aspects of the Spirit’s presence in the Church, which is the Temple of the Holy Spirit.  I am breaking down Father John’s paragraph in a more systematic manner.

The Holy Spirit …

  • prays within us and on our behalf [Romans 8:26].
  • works out our sanctification [Romans 15:16; 1 Corinthians 6:11; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Galatians 5:16-18].
  • pours out God’s love into the hearts of believers, enabling them to address the Father by the familiar and intimate name, “Abba” [Romans 5:5; 8:15-16; Galatians 4:6].
  • confirms our status as “children of God” through His indwelling presence and power [Romans 8:16; Galatians 4:6].
  • guides and preserves the faithful in their ascetic struggles against the passions [Galatians 5:16].
  • serves as the source and guarantor of our “freedom” from the constraints of the Law, a freedom which enables us to behold the glory of the Lord [2 Corinthians 3:17-18].

Looking up these passages in the Bible may further prove to be helpful in gaining a sense of the ongoing and endless gifts that the Holy Spirit brings to the Church and to our personal lives.

I also would like to include a passage from Veselin Kesich’s book, The First Day of the New Creation.  In his discussion about Pentecost, Prof. Kesich offers a good summary of the Orthodox Christian position concerning the issue of the filioque.  As Orthodox Christians, we continue to recite the Nicene Creed in its original form, without the interpolation of the filioque—the Latin term that means “and from the Son”—when proclaiming the eternal procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father.

Prof. Kessich summarizes the Orthodox position based upon a careful reading of the Scriptures.  The “filioque controversy” remains to this day a divisive point of contention between Orthodox Christianity and Roman Catholicism respectively – and those Western churches that also use the term.  The point to be made is not about remaining entrenched in a polemical position, but to try to come to some understanding as to why the Orthodox have never embraced this later addition to the Nicene Creed.

In the words of Prof. Kesich, 

“It is equally true that the Father sends the Spirit [John 14:16,26].  The Son sends the Spirit, but the source of the Spirit is the Father, for the Spirit proceeds from the Father [John 15:26].  The verb “proceed” that is used in John 15:26 is ekporeuomai.  When it is said that the Son “comes forth” from the Father, the verb is exerchomai.  Saint John consistently uses the latter verb whenever he speaks of the Son coming forth from the Father [8:42: 13:3; 16:27f.; 16:30; 17:8].  The Spirit and the Son have the same and only origin.  They are two distinct persons.  Their missions are not identical.  Although the Spirit had not been given because Jesus had not yet been glorified [John 7:39], yet it is nowhere stated in Saint John’s Gospel that the Spirit “proceeds” from the Son as He proceeds from the Father.  Therefore, there is no filioque here.”

Nothing like some good biblical exegesis to make’s one day brighter and more glorious during this week of Pentecost!

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